august 1st~birthdays are holy days, the sacred aperture of the soul’s entry on the earthly plane. which brings to mind my friend Paul, born today, on the pagan celebration of the turning point of summer, the beginning of the harvest season–a time of year which deserves high praise from me for all that’s been received…
my son Aidan, my first kiss with my husband, our move to Vermont, the last day of our summer backpacking honeymoon adventure across Europe, our firstborn…
And before the wheel turns to Autumn, the birthday of my beloved & the return to spirit of my mother on the same date
and in between and before the season’s turning–the holy apertures of nieces & nephews, in-laws, & grandmothers, uncles & friends, my baby sister, my father, and the honorable 44th President of the United States of America.
And then there’s the fruit, the tomato, the cornflower, the pumpkin, the blueberry.
All these outrageous acts we gather in abundance for the leaner seasons.
I love Mondays. The chance to start again. To get it right.
I hate August. “A month of Sundays.”
As a result, I’m often angry.
A reminder that I need to grieve.
How apropos that the old Co-op is being demolished as this anniversary approaches. What if we each threw something into the wreckage that we no longer wanted: guns, unresolved anger, bitterness?
I wonder how the Co-op will mark the anniversary? I know it will be a day full of anguish for the family of Michael Martin. I know that the days leading up to the anniversary will be particularly hard. I can already feel it in my own body.
What about Richard? What will his body relive of that day? What choices might he wish differently?
If you haven’t experienced the anniversary of a deep loss, then know that it takes its toll. Drink lots of water. Get a massage. Talk to a friend. Plant something beautiful–in the ground, in your life, in a relationship. Breath.
I can’t concentrate at work. Each day I am more tired. And even though I am eating right, getting exercise, spending time in quiet, I’m feeling the toll of so many days of angst.
Today, I drive through West Brattleboro, for the first time since the flood, and I am surprised, and almost sickened, to see edges of black top missing, dangling into run off, yellow line and all.
I haven’t been on Route 9 since the days I walked it with dozens of other neighbors to take in the devastation; and this neglect of Western Avenue leading to Route 9 brings the trauma of that pilgrimage back.
“Road Closed,”says the sign at the base of the road, and so I turn my car around, and then roll down my window to check in with another driver who looks perplexed.
“What am I supposed to do?” he says. “When I came down from the college to go to the store, that sign wasn’t there.”
“You know the back way, don’t you?” I ask. And he shakes his head ; so I say, “Follow me.”
I always feel better when I help someone. It gets me out of myself, and channels my grief into something that moves, instead of puddles.
Ames Hill was nightmarish then, with only a single, rugged lane, flanked by deep caverns beneath the jagged edges where the road had been eaten away.
Once we made the decision to proceed, there was no turning back or pulling over; and if we abandoned our car, which I would have liked to do, emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to get through.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was making sure that the young man in the van with out of state plates was following me–past Lilac Ridge with the bright sunflowers, and around the turn to head up toward the Robb Family Farm where the cows used to moo.
It was then that my body began to re-live the tension of that nightmare ride home, even though there was a boy playing ball on the lawn in the afternoon light instead of a car dangling over a deep ditch in the dark.
I noticed my stomach tighten, without any thoughts, and I realized that my body had some more letting go to do, even if my mind didn’t.
I tried to get onto Route 9 this morning too, but there was work going on, and I didn’t want to interrupt it, so I turned around and took the long way again.
As I passed the post office, I realized that it had been days since we fetched the mail, and so I stopped, and heard how Marshall spent three hours trying to get to work last week, and finally headed back home to Brattleboro, where he took a long walk with his wife, and saw all kinds of unusual things in the water: propane tanks bobbing, an actual car, and even a house, upside down, floating like a boat on its attic.
Perhaps we need to get my friend Susie and other artists to create a large canvass upon which we can all release what we have seen.
Another Lisa took a trip down the Augur Hole yesterday to help Peggy move back in, and Lisa’s stricken face said more than any words to describe what it was to see that road missing, and the wide, rocky stream bed that was now it its place.
I haven’t been to Wilmington, but having lived there for several years, I feel a strong kinship to that community. I can’t imagine what it must be to see the devastation downtown.
As I climbed the stairs to second floor office this morning, my legs were heavy with this grief–and that of Texas, and of Japan, and I noticed that the flood had carved out much more room inside of me for compassion, and that it was taking more energy than I was used to giving.
And yet, as I come down MacArthur Road, past John’s place, and Jason’s apple trees, and Gail’s berries, and Robin’s sky, I notice that the sun, though hidden by the clouds, is shimmering its way through in a perfect offering of light.
In exactly two weeks, “BFC Tragedy” climbs its way to the top of the list of writing topics on the sidebar of this Vermont blog–from a tiny thing at the bottom, to where it sits now–boldface, beside the prominent category of “Autumn.”
In retrospect, I wish I’d tagged this collection “BFC Healing” instead of “tragedy,” but at the time I never imagined that so much compassion would flow from murder.
Doesn’t it seem like a lifetime passed since the Co-op mutated from haven to hell in an instant?
Earlier this afternoon I passed tourists at the corner of Elliott and Main–two moms and a young son looking for a place to eat. I recommended the Co-op; and then wondered if I’d made a mistake. If I was visiting, would I want to take my kids there?
I’ve left my own kids at home, but my husband has accompanied me again. I watch with tenderness as he approaches one Co-op staffer after another to offer an embrace or a pat on the shoulder.
I feel too shy to do the same, and wish I could wear a button that says, “I gave at my blog.”
“At least go see Tony in the wine department,” my husband says, over a bowl of soup.
Instead I suggest that I come back with cookies or candy–something easier to share than sentiment.
Perhaps the staff has grown weary of compassion anyway, I argue internally. Maybe they’re trying to move on. But the truth is that my biggest concern is that they would feel that we’ve moved on–without them.
Whenever I’m faced with uncertainty around connecting with those in grief, I think back to my friend Trish whose 18 year old brother was killed in an accident the summer we all worked together at the shore. Everyone at the Crab House was heartbroken, but they avoided talking about Tommy so as not to make it harder on Trish.
Finally I asked her. “Does it make it worse when I talk about him?”
“No,” she answered. “I couldn’t feel any worse, and he’s on my mind all the time.”
Maybe it’s that way for everyone at the Co-op. Maybe this tragedy is always on their minds whether we acknowledge it or not.
I wonder how long it will take until I walk into that store and it’s no longer on mine.
It feels good to be relieved of the burden of shock, but is that truly a good thing? Is surrendering to murder akin to accepting it, to tolerating it, to allowing it to become a norm?
I know that I cannot go through my days somber and distraught, but how can I shop in my grocery store without feeling the bloodshed spilled there? Won’t I be dishonoring the man whose life was stolen when I talk to friends in the aisles as if it never happened?
It’s not just the Co-op that’s tainted from this murder. My own community of Marlboro is too. Last night I stood under the stars with friends at an annual summer party, but I couldn’t get our neighbor, Richard Gagnon, out of my head.
When I pulled into the pond this morning for brunch, I cringed at the thought of the tennis courts where Richard played with his wife; and later that afternoon, I cringed again, when I thought I saw him walking across the beach with two friends.
Am I afraid of Richard? Of someone like Richard? Or am I simply traumatized by the fact that someone among us carried out such an act? That someone else could?
For the first time ever, murder is a topic at our family dinner table. “Are you talking about Richard?” My eleven year old asks. “No,” I reply. “We’re talking about the other murder.”
The other murder.
How is that phrase spoken in our home? That we can talk about it at all feels good, because until now it hurt too much to admit that it had crept into our world.
Maybe that is why we all walk down the aisles of the grocery store, or gather at the pond, or under the stars without saying much about the crushing loss we must accept if we are to endure.